Dysfunction is not your destiny

Kelli Crawford

I feel like my relationships are doomed.

How can I conquer the generational cycle of family dysfunction and divorce?

Or should I just accept my family's current state as my inevitable future?

This is a common question, as families increasingly struggle with patterns of conflict, abuse, and betrayal passed on from one generation to the next.

The family patterns that hurt us for generations imprint upon us; we learn and often copy those patterns of behavior. Often we marry someone who “fits” this problematic pattern, so we end up continuing the cycle of hurtful, broken life in marriage and then with our children.

The good news is the cycle of dysfunction can be broken. Jesus in us can break any stronghold, no matter how many generations have struggled before us.

Healing First

Deliverance from generations of destructive behavior patterns takes more than just a decision to be different. And it takes more than just choosing to go through the motions of “normal” life. For real, long-lasting deliverance, we need healing at the very core of who we are, in our hearts, minds, and souls.

After generations of painful dysfunctional life, the hurts at the root of our destructive actions are deeply embedded in us. Before we can break the cycle of family problems, these deep hurts must be uprooted and healed. And though counseling can be very helpful for that healing, ultimately we need Jesus to heal us and make us new again. Only He has the power to free us from the entangled roots of our pain.

The Apostle Paul encourages us, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Jesus heals our hurts and brokenness, helps us love the way He loves, and helps us give forgiveness the way He gives forgiveness. This changes everything! The old patterns of destructive behavior can be replaced with brand new behaviors led by Jesus and His goodness! Yes, we will continue to be imperfect with stumbles along the way, but Jesus never leaves us and continues the restoration process in us and in generations to come.

Intentionally Choosing New Life

As Jesus leads us, we must daily choose to submit to His guidance, and this includes choosing to let Him transform our self-image and our relationships. He transforms our self-image by reminding us of the truth about who He made us to be. In Psalm 139:4, David says, “I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”

And as He teaches us to love ourselves as He loves us, He then empowers us to love others with His amazing forgiveness and grace. Paul instructs us to “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Colossians 3:13). And, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:31-32).

This new life of forgiveness and unconditional love includes adopting positive, healthy attitudes in our relationships. We choose to show acceptance, to set standards for our own behavior, to be hopeful, to listen with openness, and to build positive experiences with those we love.

Jesus defuses dysfunction through His transformation within us and His love through others toward us.

Letting Others In

Beyond our personal relationships, we also need to be open to help from others whom God has gifted for counseling us, mentoring us, and helping us with problems like addiction. Jesus again gives us this new strength to be open to wise friends, church pastors, and medical/counseling professionals. Jesus defuses dysfunction through His transformation within us and His love through others toward us. Letting others in allows Jesus to give us a “team” of support, people who love us and who are willing to commit to being there for us in good times and bad.  

Celebrating the Win

Dysfunction is not our destiny! Jesus transforming us and our relationships does take time, but He is all-powerful and never gives up on us.  Daily we can choose to let Him lead us and remake us, and He will not fail to make all things new (Revelation 21:5).

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